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Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) July 4, 2010

Posted by ayasawada in Anime.
Tags: , , ,

Umi ga Kikoeru


For a long time this was the one Studio Ghibli film I hadn’t seen. Ocean Waves comes from the contemporary slice-of-life mould like Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart than the fantastical Miyazaki template.

Perhaps it is the different director that makes such films so different. Whisper of the Heart was directed by the late Yoshifumi Kondo. Only Yesterday had Isao Takahata at the helm and Ocean Waves is the debut feature of Tonomi Mochizuki, perhaps better known for his work on TV series such as the shojo classic Kimagure Orange Road.

Based on a short story, Ocean Waves is a high-school tale of friendship and first love. Taku Morisaki is an average teenage boy in a small town in rural Shikoku, okay grades, a part-time job in a kitchen and no particular worries. Things change in his senior year when Rikako Muto transfers to his school from Tokyo. Taku’s studious best friend Yutaka is immediately drawn to the haughty city girl, but his efforts inadvertently lead to a chance favour and growing emotion between Taku and Rikako — even if neither of them realises it.

I know what you’re thinking: bleh. This kind of ‘tender’ teenage tale can all too often turn to mushy cheese. But Mochizuki’s history with Kimagure Orange Road bodes well here (it helps that this was a TV movie as well, I think). He handles it delicately and sensitively, without straying into the melodramatic. Ocean Waves is perfectly paced; never rushed, never too slow to be boring. The characters are rounded enough to rouse interest and empathy and there’s a lovely background score from Shigeru Nagata.

For an anime, the animation itself isn’t anything amazing, but what I admire about Ghibli in doing such contemporary slice-of-life tales is that they don’t try to be overly flashy. The character designs are fitting and the palate suitable to the small-town setting, expanding slightly on a trip to Tokyo to emphasise the urban-rural contrast. But largely, the visuals take a backseat to what is foremost a story driven by character and emotion.

Rarely for me, I knew very little about the actual plot before seeing the film, and this probably made a difference. It’s not quite a typical high-school tale and there is enough tugging of the heartstrings to keep you engaged. A lovely part of the Ghibli catalogue.


1. Tomás Alvarez Dela Rivera - January 22, 2013

Very good movie

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